A colleague from the US showed up at my office in Amsterdam this morning, and I greeted them with a sturdy embrace and a kiss on both cheeks.
“Whoa, that’s new,” she said. “You’ve really embraced this whole ‘Europe’ thing, huh?”
I ignored the impermanence in her tone, as if my living here were a temporary fad, and focused on the meat of what she was saying. I guess I have embraced this whole “Europe” thing. I started to think about the subtle shifts in my habits that could arguably be called “European” and found myself surprised. I now habitually spell my words with a different flair (colour, authorisation, etc), I call my cell phone a “mobile”, I use Whatsapp exclusively over SMS, and apparently I’m now a guy who kisses cheeks.
This latter is the most surprising to me, as I have the distinct, vivid memory of being petrified of this type of greeting no more than a year before moving to Europe. The rules of it seemed daunting back then, but now that it’s a habit I can’t remember ever having even learning them.
This reminds me of something I heard once. A simple question. A meditation, if you will, on the differences between cultures. “Is it wrong, or just different?” Everything here is different from what I’m used to, in varying degrees, but none of it is wrong. It’s just different. The food has a different consistency. They focus on different elements. Streets are different. But is it wrong? No